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Helloween - Brixton Academy, London (UK) - 14 November 2017

In all the years of going to gigs in London, which is now stretching beyond thirty years, I don't recall ever attending the Brixton Academy, and if I have it was so long in the distant past that I've forgotten. This five thousand capacity venue was practically sold out and the only UK date on the Helloween 'Pumpkins United' world tour.

As the tour so eloquently states, "United" is the key word with Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske reunited with their former bandmates after many years apart, leaving aside the obvious sporadic guest appearances by Hansen. Guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Uli Kusch were the two notable ex-members who weren't invited as bassist Marcus Grosskopf had explained that there would be too many people on stage, so with that cleared up it was definitely more of a turn towards classic early era Helloween.

The palpable sense of expectancy was very heavy in the air as I took my place in the pit at the front of the stage – this was truly going to be a defining moment for British fans whom many had noted how well received the shows had been going on the tour. To the strains of Robbie Williams' 'Let Me Entertain You' the house lights dimmed and the roar of the crowd was mighty.

An explosion of lights and colour greeted the audience as the black, transparent in the light curtain that was emblazoned with the legend 'Helloween – Pumpkins United' dropped, and we were treated to the sight of both Kiske and Andi Deris, standing on one of the raised steps of the stage, duetting on opener 'Halloween' either side of Daniel Löble's drum kit, that from a low angle looked like it was sitting in a pumpkin carcass – all very clever and striking.


Helloween - Live 8

As the tour had started in Monterrey, Mexico back on 19th October – although with a few hiccups due to Kiske's ill health prior to opening night – they had had a few weeks and thirteen shows to really nail the running order and have the show set as a well-oiled beast, and it showed! With a days' rest and a short trip to London from München where they'd played two nights earlier, at the historic seven thousand capacity Zenith culture and exhibition centre, Kiske and Deris were in fine voice. The enigmatic and always serious-looking Michael "Weiki" Weikath was fixed to the right of the stage as one looked and Sascha Gerstner – Grapow's replacement way back in 2002 – was happily ensconced to the left of the stage with Hansen seemingly allowed free reign to interact with Grosskopf in the centre or "Weiki" and Gerstner at opposite ends of the stage. Behind Löble was a massive screen that relayed images and album artwork related to Helloween's history and occasional live footage as the band performed, and with the amazing light show it was impossible to fix your gaze on any one specific point or band member as there was so much happening all at once. Hansen was allowed centre stage in the spotlight for the solo and the camaraderie shown by everyone, particularly the subtle respect that Deris showed to Kiske which maybe not everyone in the audience was fully aware of, was not only heart-warming but made one realise that this one-off reunion has been done for all the right reasons and not before time either, with Kiske particularly having long forgiven "Weiki" for the original breakdown in their relationship.


Helloween - Live 1

Fan favourite 'Dr Stein' was aired after the lengthy opening of 'Halloween' and again had Kiske and Deris sharing vocal duties and also pandered straight to the rabid crowd, many of whom were long-time Helloween devotees and had relished hearing Kiske and Hansen once again performing 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' songs. Everyone looked like they were having a ball on stage and musically it was very near faultless. "Weiki" was doing his usual exaggerated hand flourishes as he meticulously picked his power chords, whilst the much younger Gerstner, hair mostly shorn into an eighties new wave cut with a long fringe, head down and studious rhythm kept it very cool, which allowed the returnee Hansen to trail blaze his Flying V around the stage like a lion reclaiming his territory. Again, this was another very subtle favour from "Weiki" and Gerstner, knowing that after this one-off world tour the stage would be theirs and theirs alone once again, thus allowing Hansen to somewhat steal the limelight was no big deal, as they were fully aware the huge support and sold out venues were a lot to do with the two ex-members returning to the Helloween fold to recreate that eighties magic that had set Helloween on the road to stardom all those years ago.

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As much as the fascination to see what songs or parts of songs Kiske and Deris would sing, it was also noticeable how much involvement Grosskopf had on stage, he joined in amongst all the guitar duels and also frequently stepped up to Löble's drumkit to entice him into powerful rhythmic beats that are the heartbeat of Helloween's newer, heavier numbers of recent times. Although admittedly not as technical as his predecessor Kusch or even as straightforwardly fast as founding drummer Ingo Schwictenberg who originated a Speed Metal style, Löble was as proficient and metronomic as any in the business.

The first of many Pumpkin cartoon skits (possibly by Martin Häusler) was shown on the big screen as an interlude whilst the players took a breather and also served as a prelude to the following song, on this first occasion going back to 'I'm Alive' (from 'Keeper... Part One'), handled by Kiske as Deris left the stage. Then it was Kiske's turn to depart as Deris returned to sing 'If I Could Fly' from 2000's 'Dark Ride' opus. This pretty much followed a pattern as Deris and Kiske took it in turns to be the lead vocalist as occasionally there was an intermission with the big screen skits up until the 'Starlight – Ride The Sky – Judas' medley of pre 'Keeper...' songs where Hansen took over lead mike duties, and for 'Starlight' possibly the first playing on this tour since 1986 at a guess!


Helloween - Live 9

There was a lovely tribute to Ingo Schwictenberg as live footage of his drumming was aired on the screen followed by Löble's live playing in a kind of drumming duel that preceded a visual tribute to him taking centre stage during another intermission. It got an emotional cheer from the many who remembered his contribution to Helloween's history, but I imagine it would provoke a more emotional outpouring were they to air it in Hamburg.


Helloween - Live 2

I loved hearing 'A Little Time' from Kiske and the emotional and powerful 'How Many Tears' had all three vocalists stepping up to the plate in a truly memorable rendition. To finish we were treated to effectively two encores, 'Eagle Fly Free' and 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' before concluding the three hour set and causing mayhem in the audience with the classics 'Future World' and 'I Want Out' – Deris noticeably matching Kiske word for word as they brought the concert to a spellbinding end. To match the emotion of the occasion, the very apt 'Braveheart' movie theme served as the outro music as the band slowly bid farewell and the house lights gradually came on. To be honest, it was a phenomenal performance and exceeded even my high expectations. The planned DVD of this tour will be worth every penny, but more importantly, getting yourself down to one of these shows will also be worth every penny as once the tour is over there is a strong possibility it will never be repeated!


Helloween - Live 3

Set-list::

'Halloween' , 'Dr Stein', 'I'm Alive' , 'If I Could Fly', 'Are You Metal?', 'Kids Of The Century', 'Waiting For The Thunder', 'Perfect Gentleman', 'Starlight/Ride The Sky/Judas' (medley), 'Heavy Metal (Is The Law)', 'Forever And One (Neverland)''A Tale That Wasn't Right', 'I Can', (Drum solo/Ingo tribute), 'Livin' Ain't No Crime', 'A Little Time', 'Why?', 'Sole Survivor', 'Power', 'How Many Tears'.


Helloween - Live 6

Encore:

'Eagle Fly Free', 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys'

2nd Encore:

'Future World', 'I Want Out'


Helloween - Live 4

Review and photos by Carl Buxton


Helloween - Live 5

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